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Monday, January 30, 2017

171.Therapy As Curriculum: The Underground History of American Education by John Taylor Gatto from archive.org

Therapy As Curriculum 

To say that various psychologies dominate modern schooling is hardly to plow new 
ground. The tough thing to do is to show how that happened and why — and how the 
project progresses to its unseen goals. The Atlantic Monthly had this to say in April 1993: 

...schools have turned to therapeutic remediation. A growing proportion of many school 
budgets is devoted to counseling and other psychological services. The curriculum is 
becoming more therapeutic: children are taking courses in self-esteem, conflict 
resolution, and aggression management. Parental advisory groups are conscientiously 
debating alternative approaches to traditional school discipline, ranging from teacher 
training in mediation to the introduction of metal detectors and security guards in the 
schools. Schools are increasingly becoming emergency rooms of the emotions, 
devoted. ..to repairing hearts. What we are seeing. ...is the psychologization of American 
education. 

Two years before I ran across that Atlantic broadside, I encountered a different analysis 
in the financial magazine Forbes. I was surprised to discover Forbes had correctly 
tracked the closest inspiration for school psychologizing, both its aims and its techniques, 
to the pedagogy of China and the Soviet Union. Not similar practices and programs, mind 
you, identical ones. The great initial link with Russia, I knew, had been from the 
Wundtian Ivan Pavlov, but the Chinese connection was news to me. I was unaware then 
of John Dewey's tenure there in the 1920s, and had given no thought, for that reason, to 
its possible significance: 

The techniques of brainwashing developed in totalitarian countries are routinely used in 
psychological conditioning programs imposed on school children. These include 
emotional shock and desensitization, psychological isolation from sources of support, 
stripping away defenses, manipulative cross-examination of the individual's underlying 
moral values by psychological rather than rational means. These techniques are not 



confined to separate courses or programs. ..they are not isolated idiosyncracies of 
particular teachers. They are products of numerous books and other educational materials 
in programs packaged by organizations that sell such curricula to administrators and 
teach the techniques to teachers. Some packages even include instructions on how to deal 
with parents and others who object. Stripping away psychological defenses can be done 
through assignments to keep diaries to be discussed in group sessions, and through role- 
playing assignments, both techniques used in the original brainwashing programs in 
China under Mao. 

The Forbes writer, Thomas Sowell, perhaps invoking the slave states in part to rouse the 
reader's capitalist dander, could hardly have been aware himself how carefully industrial 
and institutional interest had seeded Russia, China, Japan, and the Pacific Islands with the 
doctrine of psychological schooling long ago, nearly at the beginning of the century, and 
in Japan's case even before that. All along we have harvested these experimental growths 
in foreign soil for what they seem to prove about people-shaping. 

For example, the current push for School-to-Work deep mines specific practices of the 
former Soviet Union, even to the point of using identical language from Soviet texts. 
School-to-Work was a project installed in Russia by Americans in the 1920s to test the 
advice of the nineteenth-century Swiss aristocrat von Fellenberg that manual labor should 
be combined with academic schooling. Fellenberg's doctrine was a short-lived fad in this 
country in the 1830s, but ever after it had a place in the mind of certain men of affairs and 
social theorists. The opportunity afforded by Russia's chaos after WWI seemed too 
promising to pass up. 

The New Thought Tide 

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